Phase one of £630,000 community project completed - Ashfield Group

Transforming a disused pub into a vibrant community centre was the vision of OPAL, a charity that supports the over-60s to live independently, safely and healthily in an area embracing six villages and districts north-west of Leeds.

When the Welcome In opened its doors to the hundreds of people who are directly supported by OPAL, the charity’s members and public discovered an environment and amenities that are designed to bring the wider community together, regardless of age.

It is the result of a two-year search and fundraising campaign to secure permanent premises for OPAL. The pub building had to be completely gutted and the interior layout re-organised together with structural work to internal walls and a new roof. One of its striking architectural features is a new accessible glazed entrance.

The Ashfield team worked closely with architects LEDA, a Leeds practice specialising in the design of sustainable buildings.

OPAL project co-ordinator, Ailsa Rhodes believes it was an ideal partnership. “They cared about what we wanted this project to achieve and that’s made a real difference in helping us to manage the build programme and any challenges we faced in making the space work as effectively as possible,” she says.

At the heart of the project is the Community Café which seats 48 customers and includes disabled access and baby changing facilities. A drop-in advice centre, the charity’s offices and initial space for hire by community groups and small businesses have also been completed.

“Our project manager from Ashfield, Krystian, and his team were excellent,” adds Ailsa. “They far exceeded our experience of working with building firms.”

“Any problems were sorted out quickly and their attention to the smallest details was a real benefit. On the day we opened the heating system didn’t come on first thing in the morning, but someone was here straight away to fix it.”